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Medical staff at Adventist Health donated $50,000 to the Kern Literacy Council for a new program called "Stories & Stethoscopes." From left to right: Dr. Ronald Reynoso, chief medical office for Adventist Health Kern County; Dr. Ololade Oladimeji, vice chief of staff, Adventist Health Bakersfield; Laura Lollar Wolfe, executive director of Kern Literacy Council; Daniel Wolcott, Adventist Health president of Kern County Care Delivery; and Kiyoshi Tomono, community partnership executive.

National Doctors' Day is typically a day to celebrate doctors on March 30, but there's been nothing all that typical about the last two Doctors' Days.

Last March 30, Kern County had just experienced its first COVID-19 death and was experiencing its first hospitalizations. The specter of the pandemic hasn't yet passed, but doctors at Adventist Health said they were beginning to experience a sense of optimism as local case counts dropped and vaccinations increased.

"We're finally able to focus on the hope piece of our mission," said Dr. Ronald Reynoso, chief medical officer at Adventist Health Kern County. 

That's why medical staff at Adventist Health decided to forgo the usual Doctors' Day celebration — a luncheon with gifts for the doctors — and instead begin a partnership for the community. Reynoso formally announced they were kicking off their partnership with Kern Literacy Council with a $50,000 donation.

That money will go a long way for a group like the Kern Literacy Council, which relies heavily on volunteers, according to executive director Laura Lollar Wolfe.

The new program will be called "Stories & Stethoscopes." As COVID restrictions ease, doctors said that they plan to bring children and their families into their locations in Delano, Tehachapi and Bakersfield for storytimes. 

Wolfe said other plans for the program are evolving but the funds will also be used to help put books in the homes of Kern residents who lack them.

The Kern Literacy Council focuses on improving the literacy of the community through families. A big piece of their work is improving the English skills of Spanish-speaking mothers, Wolfe said. That pays in dividends, because parents can then read to their children who go on to do better in school.

This emphasis on family literacy made the partnership a natural fit, according to Dr. Ololade Oladimeji, vice chief of staff at Adventist Health.

"The more we can inspire kids at a young age, the more likely they are to succeed in school and the more likely they are to experience a healthy future," Oladimeji said.

Reynoso said this year the doctors at Adventist Health were really looking for a way to give back to the community after what's been a tough year.

The doctors were eager to start thinking not just about life after vaccines but the next generation.

"Who knows?" said Oladimeji. "Maybe one day we will inspire some future doctors from our community right here."